The Self-Publisher’s Dilemma

Tempting...very tempting...

Like everyone else, I’m very interested in how ebooks are going to change the publishing world, especially since I hope to be a part of that world in the near future.  Lately one of the things that has been coming up is the idea of self-publishing.  With ebooks on the rise, and easy-to-use self-publishing platforms readily available, why not just self-publish and cut out the middle man? That way, you make more money per book, and can sell your books for less.  Seems like a win-win-win situation.  But…

There’s always a but.  In fact, in this case there are two “buts” that I’ve noticed when it comes to self-publishing.

First, now that anyone can pretty much put anything up on the kindle, there is a lot out there.  And, I hate to say it, but a lot of it isn’t very good.  I have nothing against self-publishing; for some people, it’s a better way to get their stuff out there, and I’m sure there are a lot of great stories available that wouldn’t otherwise be.  But there’s also a lot of not-so-great stories available.  What this means is that trying to find a good self-published story in the murky sea of words out there is difficult.

True, there are some traditionally published books that aren’t so great, either.  I know I can think of several times I’ve read something and wondered how it got published.  On the other hand, writing is so subjective, that those same books were highly recommended by other readers, so again, personal opinion plays a large role here.  But, back to the point, with traditionally published books at least there’s some kind of filter.  With self-publishing, that filter has been torn off so it’s up to the reader to figure out what’s good and what isn’t.  Which is exciting, yes, but also difficult, and leads to my second issue:

How do you make your self-published book stand out from the rest? This is something I argue about with my husband all the time.  As I’m researching agents and working on my query letter, he’s asking me why I don’t try self-publishing and bypass all that, and the reason is, I know my own limitations.  Would I be good enough at marketing myself to become well-known? Probably not.  True, in today’s world authors are expected to market themselves anyways, but in going the traditional route, they have some help.  A lot of help, actually.  If you self-publish, you go it alone for everything.

This means marketing, finding an editor, scheduling your own book signings and talks, everything.  Amanda Hocking, one of the kindle millionaires that everyone has been buzzing about lately, says it best in her post here when she explains, “I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book.”

On the other hand, it’s clear that times are changing.  There are some great comments on Nathan Bransford’s blog about all of this, and how mid-list authors will be the first to switch over.  Already Barnes and Noble announced it will welcome self published authors through its self-publishing platform, PubIt! Shari Lopatin took a look at this platform and the issues it raises over at her blog, if you want to check out her post.

As for me, I still want to go the traditional publishing route, if only to prove that yes, I was good enough to get in that way.  But I have a feeling that, as things change, more people will turn to self-publishing and not as a last resort, but as just another option.  What do you think?

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Missing Hands and Other Gaping Plot Holes

Courtesy of MC Escher

I just met with my critique group last night–it was my turn to go this week, so everyone had copies of my third and fourth chapter.  Now, I have edited, revised, edited, revised and edited the stupid thing many times over, and I was reasonably confident that all my gaping plot holes had been fixed.  At this point, I just wanted to make sure people liked it, and that the characters felt realistic.  Unfortunately, it turns out I had a few completely crazy contradictions that I had failed to notice the seventeen times I went through the thing.

There is one scene where I have a demon’s hands melt.  My exact phrase it that her hands become “a melting, mangled mess.”  Yes, I’m a fan of the occasional alliteration.  Anyways, about two pages later that same demon is holding a knife.  In her hands.  Now I’m stuck with a dilemma–I like both scenes, but neither can live while the other survives…er, sorry.  Harry Potter flashback.  FYI I finally finished the series again and I’m swearing off books for a little while so I get in some good, quality writing time.

Anyhow, the point I’m trying to make is that no matter how many times you read and re-read your work, it always helps to have a good, hairy eyeball go over it.  Several hairy eyeballs, in fact, because I’ve had a couple other test readers who missed the same thing.  And granted, one case of disappearing/reappearing hands probably isn’t going to get you rejected by an agent, but it certainly doesn’t help your credibility, either.  The real problem is that since you’re imagining it out in your head, sometimes when you read your own work you see what you meant to put, and not what’s actually there on the page.  Also, if you’ve done a number of revisions, you might forget what you’ve changed in previous drafts, and what scenes you’ve added, which I think was what happened in my story. On the plus side, my critique group seemed to really like my characters, so that’s one worry down.  Now I need to comb through the whole manuscript, again…once more, with feeling…

Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Harry Potter and the loss of my ambition

Sorry for the long delay in posts–I was spending some time hiking in Arizona, and then being lazy when I got back.

Hiking in Sedona

Anyways, today was my first official “writing as career” day, which was awesome! Too bad Harry Potter almost ruined everything.  How, you ask? Well, about a week ago I decided to re-read the first HP book, just to get in the flow, and wham! Suddenly I found myself reading all the time–I’m now halfway through the fifth book and my desire to do anything other than read Harry Potter has faded away.  My husband is especially annoyed by this.  Direct quote: “whenever you start reading Harry Potter everything else goes downhill; you stop writing, the house gets messy, you ignore your husband, etc., etc.”  I realized he was right, and last night I reluctantly put the book away.

This morning, I got up at 6:30 am, prepared to put in my first long day of writing in a long time, when I just happened to glance at my bedside table to see book five staring over at me.  I tried to ignore it as I packed up my computer.  Hem, hem, went the book.  I turned my back on it and started making my lunch.  Hem, hem.  Well, I decided, one little page won’t hurt.  Maybe I’ll read for five minutes and then go…and before I knew it, it was almost 8:00, and suddenly I was battling the parking lot that the highway is at that time to get to a coffee shop.  Why couldn’t I just work at home? Well, see above about the problem with reading Harry Potter, and imagine what your house would look like if you stopped putting away laundry, or doing dishes, or anything, for a week and a half.  It’s not a pretty picture, trust me.

Anyhow, that’s one of my big problems–when I get into a book or series, I get really into it, and I find it hard to do my own writing.  I know that reading is an important part of being writer, so I’ll just have to learn some self-control.  However, I did manage to put in three hours of work today on the sequel to my first book.  I now have the first chapter and a half done (3,267 words).  So, all in all, not a bad start.

Hem, hem

 

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm  Comments (1)  
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